By George Avalos
Customers of PG&E and other big utilities would gain relief from wild gyrations in natural gas bills during winter under proposed legislation, state Sen. Jerry Hill, the bill’s author, said Monday.
“The spikes in gas bills in the wintertime are the big concern,” Hill, a San Mateo County Democrat, said Monday. “People shouldn’t be afraid to open their next utility bill.”
Customers for San Francisco-based PG&E complained during the winter of gas bills that were hundreds of dollars higher — even more, in some cases — than their typical natural gas costs.
Many PG&E customers were forced out of the low-cost Tier 1 rate levels and shoved into more expensive billing tiers during the chilly months of December and January.
“SB 711 makes sure that the average customer has 70 percent of their bill covered by lower priced, Tier 1 rates in all winter months, dropping bills in the coldest, most expensive months,” according to a summary of the legislation.
The bill summary said the percentage of an average gas bill charged at the inexpensive Tier 1 rate was 88.5 percent in November, 57.2 percent in December, 58.6 percent in January, 70.5 percent in February and 92.4 percent in March. That means PG&E customers were most exposed to rates in the higher-cost tiers during the coldest months of greatest usage: December and January.